Tag Archives: Acceptance

How To Find Happiness Within Yourself: A Rough Guide

The quest of finding happiness is possibly the only goal shared among all human beings – past, present or future. Who doesn’t want to find happiness in his or her life? It’s a silent goal nonetheless. We don’t mutter much about it and most of the time it lurks in the deep inner workings of our minds. Curious isn’t it?

The odd fact is we spend billions of research dollars & euros into treating mental illnesses with drugs, but not much effort goes into understanding the science of happiness or mental well-being. This fact alone compels me to write about the subject.

The title of this article is in itself revealing – “how to find happiness within yourself” suggests from the outset that you should look for happiness within yourself and that happiness is general to be found within. This is also a very curious thing to me. Why are we always trying to find happiness in all kinds of places but hardly ever attempt to find happiness within?

Harry is 67. He lost his wife to cancer almost three years ago now. He saw his daughter pass through a marriage breakdown and divorce. He hardly gets to see his grandchildren because his daughter moved to another city after her divorce. He misses the fishing trips with his brother Joe who also passed away recently. He is relating less and less to a changing hostile world where he is constantly reminded he is an unwanted burden.

Yet there is one major twist to the story. Harry is happy, radiantly happy. How can this happen? I mean if there are people who have passed through all sorts of heartbreaking episodes and hardships but are happy, what’s their story? Conversely, if there are people (and lots of them) who have acquired all sorts of merit, possessions, and good fortune yet is deeply unhappy, what does this say about finding happiness?

Finding happiness by losing old mental models:

One major flaw in the way we live our lives is that we have learned how to be unhappy rather than how to be happy. We have built certain mental models of our reality and these limit us or lead us astray from finding real happiness. Naturally this leads us to the understanding that finding happiness requires us to unlearn certain things and look for it in different pathways. It requires us to look into flaws in our belief system and change them.

One of these mental models we adopt is the belief that we need to reach a certain goal or outcome to be happy, the so-called ‘if-then model’ (if this happens then I will be happy). For example that we should get a better income, financial freedom, recognition of our work, sexier bodies, satisfying relationships and so on. It’s always something around the corner which needs to happen first before we reach happiness.

I know you have many times got to the realization yourself that it just doesn’t work that way. Once you reach that corner there is always another corner to reach. Happiness is not found in anything outside ourselves. We already have all the material at hand to be happy. It’s a matter of shifting our perspective and beliefs completely.

Some mental models to take note of and debunk:

• Happiness is the pleasure: No. Pleasure is instant gratification – physical or mental. Happiness is knowing that you are where you should be or accepting that you are not and doing your best while you’re there.

• Happiness is comfort or security: We live most of our lives in constant security threats – our jobs, our children out at night, our health, etc. The truth is that security or lack of it is based on perception. Happiness is living well in a very unstable world.

• I don’t deserve happiness: Yeah, says who? Another human quirk – self-inflicted limitation. Happiness is for everyone, wherever you come from, whatever you did and no matter what’s your idea. Happiness is open-source.

• It’s impossible to find happiness in this world: Another example of self-limiting beliefs. Wrong. Happiness is as possible to find as unhappiness.

• People who reached their goals are invariably happy: Again, says who? People who reached their goals are not happy because they reached their goals. On the contrary, some are eternally dissatisfied and keep on seeking, other goals in life – a real source of unhappiness. But yes some people found happiness while reaching those goals since they were living their true purpose and enjoying every moment of it. Their eyes were on the doing and not on the reaching.

Finding Inner Happiness Through Finding Inner Peace

So many stories around us, like that of Harry, seem to point at the overlooked obvious – that you will only find happiness within yourself. Well, that’s very good news since you don’t need to look far away to find happiness – like for example running after expensive, energy-consuming and ultimately unsatisfying goals. It’s there right within you. As scientist Zen Buddhist Jon Kabat-Zinn perfectly immortalized in one of his book titles: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

When life rocks your boat to the point of wrecking it or when the proverbial crap hits the ceiling fan you will reach a y-point which will either make you or break you. So many people like Harry managed to find happiness & inner peace through the most turbulent and upsetting moments of their lives by making use of their internal resources, by finding happiness within rather than in external points of reference.

The key to happiness, or, in other words, that of finding true inner happiness, is by finding your inner peace – that center of calm inner knowing which is the real source of your being rather than those mental projections or models imposed by your social background.

There are many pathways to find your inner peace but before I start sounding too metaphysical I’d reckon that the greatest and shortest path is that of acceptance. Let go of your expectations, inner struggle, and frustrations when things don’t turn out exactly, the way you want them. Acceptance is an extremely powerful tool to finding inner happiness. It shouldn’t be confused with resignation or passiveness.

We often fail to understand the power of acceptance because it comes from the heart, not the mind. Its power, in fact, comes from transcending the resistance and inner currents of the restless mind which are often the source of our anxieties, stress, and inner conflict.

Acceptance is when we drop all, our mental models (like the if-then model), often in a moment of clarity or awareness where we become conscious that there is another life outside this madness, outside this huffing and puffing trying to acquire one goal after the other in the wrong belief that there is an ultimate goal post called happiness somewhere on the finishing line.

Ask yourself – how much of what’s going on in your life do you accept? Are you constantly feeling you should be at some other point in your life? Or do you somehow feel at peace with all aspects of your life and make use of them with all their limitations?

Other pathways to inner peace:

• Compassion: Some people admirably manage to find the time and energy to help other even when they are facing rough seas themselves. Even though this comes out from an act of compassion and selflessness, it is also a doorway to their own inner peace. In fact although it seems quite hard to do in moments when we are down and out, giving attention to others’ needs is a way of getting ‘out of your head’ which, ironic as it sounds, is a fast remedy to unhappiness.

• Seek the support of others: Well, it works both ways too. Helping others is a way to shift your center of attention away from your ailments. However seeking any form of support from others is a way of finding reinforcement and encouragement and is highly recommendable.

• Be grateful to everything around you: Because we so often forget of the little miracles happening around us on a daily basis. We only think about what’s missing instead of counting our blessings. Being thankful to life is not some wishy-washy magical spell that washes away all your troubles. Rather it is an exercise in which you become aware of the positive and meaningful things happening in your life, a real booster.

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Men And Women After Trauma: Coping With Differences

• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.

• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.

• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.

The Differences

What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.

In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.

Couple Response

Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.

When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.

Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.

According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.

Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love

If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.

• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.

• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.

If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.

• She joins a bereavement group at the church.

• He increases his workout schedule.

• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.

Couple Considerations for Coping

• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.

• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.

• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.

• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.

• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.

Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.

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How Do You Find Happiness?

Happiness is defined as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? So what makes happiness so hard to attain?

One of the common reasons we find it so difficult to find happiness is due to our perception of what it really is. Our ability to be happy depends on how we define it.

For many, happiness is defined by what has been achieved, what has been accomplished, or material things we have obtained.

While these things can contribute to the feeling of being happy, do they really bring us true happiness?

So what is happiness? Where does it come from? How do we achieve it?

• Live Our “Best Life.”

For starters, we can begin by living what I like to call our “best life.” This consists of being the best version of ourselves we can be. It involves self-acceptance and no longer comparing ourselves to others. Living our best life also includes no longer using things to measure our happiness, but focusing on the feeling. Practicing mindfulness can also help us achieve happiness. In doing this, we can fully experience the moment and learn to engage with each moment on its terms, taking things as they come. When we are able to accept things for what they are, we can be happier.

• Practice daily gratitude.

Gratitude determines our attitude. As we practice gratitude, it eventually becomes second nature. We become able to find the beauty in small things and appreciate all life has to offer.

• Learn the art of letting go.

When we learn to let go, we find the path to freedom. By learning to let go, we are no longer held captive by our past or lingering negative emotions.

These are other things we can do to get ourselves in a feel-good mood.

• Smile.

Everyone knows a smile is contagious. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, force a smile and keep smiling. If you don’t give that feeling of wanting to smile, you will eventually get the giggles from looking so silly.

• Smell something that makes you happy.

The sense of smell is very powerful and can trigger several moods and reactions. Why not smell your way to happiness? Sniff your favorite flower, inhale your favorite fragrance, or indulge in the aromas of your favorite food. When I’m feeling down, I tend to smell lavender. I not only enjoy the smell, but it also has some calming and relaxing properties.

• Do something good for someone else.

If you can’t put a smile on your face, put a smile on someone else’s. Doing a good deed will often result in that good, bubbly feeling of joy. When you’ve made someone’s day, how can you avoid a smile?

• Do something you enjoy that you haven’t done in a while.

Remember that feeling of complete happiness when the wind blows in your face as you swing on a swing, or when you play a good game of baseball, or make a nice batch of cookies? Well, get up and get moving! There is no pick-me-up like doing something pleasurable you haven’t done in a while. Think back to little things that have made you happy and explore those again.

• Laugh, laugh, laugh.

Just as a smile is contagious, so is laughter. Watch a funny movie or reminisce about something funny and just laugh. If you can’t think of anything to laugh at, just start laughing and keep thinking. You’re bound to eventually think of something funny or continue laughing at yourself.

These are a few suggestions, but happiness is unique and so is your path. Edith Wharton was quoted saying “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we’d have a pretty good time.”

Stop trying to be happy or thinking about being happy and challenge yourself to do what makes you happy. Find what makes you happy today and live life to the fullest.

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10 Practical Ways To Handle Stress

Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.

1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.

Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.

Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?

By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.

2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.

While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.

The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.

Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.

Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.

3. Do what you love.

It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.

4. Manage your time well.

One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.

5. Create a toolbox of techniques.

One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.

Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.

6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”

Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”

Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.

7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?

Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”

So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.

8. Preserve good boundaries.

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.

One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.

9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.

Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.

Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.

LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”

Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.

Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:

Worrying about your health involves…

Caring about your health involves…

Worrying about your career involves…

Caring about your career involves…

10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.

Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.

As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”

Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”

Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.

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How Your Friends Influence Your Life?

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin.

Friends add meaning to our life, they enrich our experiences, bring joy, and share our problems. If there were a fourth need besides food, water, and shelter, we could say it would be the need for human interaction, closeness, and friendships. After all, what if great things happen in your life—you got a new job, a promotion, or fall in love—and there is no one to share the news with? What is the use of getting that new dress, purse, car, or house if there is no one to tell you, “I’m so happy for you!” And what can give you more relief in time of frustration, grief, sadness, or “the blues” than talking to a friend? Our friends are an important part of our lives, and also a necessary part; they are our mirrors, and our sounding boards.

Choosing a friend is not an easy task, for we all had one or two experiences in our life when a person who we thought was our friend let us down. Those lessons were hard to swallow, yet necessary to our inner growth. Later we learned that it is better to be alone than to be in wrong company.

It is of utmost importance to carefully choose the people we will associate with, for they will have great influence on our life. ‘‘Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.’’ (Assyrian proverb). We are the average of the five people closest to us, and that relates to their lifestyle, manners, income, etc. If you make friends with someone who is always looking for an easy way out, tells “white lies,” makes excuses, is envious, sarcastic, and avoids taking responsibility, it is only a matter of time before you start slacking off in those areas and justifying your own behavior as acceptable. Somehow what seemed unthinkable before, will gain a new perspective and become the norm, for if you run with the wolves you too will learn how to howl, and just like a mirror you will start to reflect the behavior of your friends—the good and the bad.

Stop for a moment now, and take a little inventory of the person you are right now compared to the person you were a year or two years ago. What qualities have you adopted from the people you surround yourself with? What character traits, attitudes, vocabulary, even quality of your self-esteem, confidence, acceptance of yourself and others? How did your friends (consciously or unconsciously) influence you in those areas? If the change is positive, and you feel yourself moving toward more, that’s great! How about if the change is negative, slowly but surely getting you down, making you feel that you are less instead of being more?

It is up to you to make the change, for as long as you tolerate mediocrity from others, you too will find mediocrity in your own life acceptable. Know, however, that this will be one of the hardest changes you will have to make, for your friends will not want you to grow. They have spent months or sometimes years getting you to a point where they themselves are, and now they are feeling comfortable with you right there, and it will not be of benefit to them if you should decide to change that. They don’t want you to grow, for the result of your personal growth will be outgrowing them and their comfort zone. At all cost they will want you to stay where they are, where they can continue to influence you and will not have to worry that someday you may become better than them. Their intentions may not even be based on jealousy but rather on fear, so forgive them quickly so you can go on your way to become the person you are meant to be.

Sometimes you have to leave behind those who are not willing to climb the mountain with you, if they refuse to share your vision of personal growth, then they should not try to discourage you in reaching your dream. How will you know what their true intention is for you? Look at their own lives, in which areas have they already reached the success that you are striving for? If they tasted the victory, they will want the same for you, however if their life never left their personal comfort zone they will be eager to share thoughts of fear and discouragement with you. So on your travel to a greater you, only take counsel from those who have already been there. Surround yourself with friends who are models of something instead of experts of nothing, for if you share your problems with someone who is incapable of contributing to a solution dipping in their own life’s experiences, your time and energy is wasted. Oftentimes though, it is those who never did anything who are the first with their ill-fitted advice. Know then, that at those times you can reserve the right that not everyone has the privilege to speak into your life. Instead of wasting your time with those people, invest in some time spending a few hours with people who have ‘‘been there and done that” and came out of it successfully.

It is said that there are three kinds of people in this world:

• Those who watch things happen.
• Those who make things happen.
• Those who wonder “What happened?”.

So let’s make things happen. Start today!

Choose good friendships in your life, the kind of friends who will enrich your life, pull you up when you are down, and push you when you can’t go on by yourself, who will be generous with praise at your successes and eager with encouragement at your struggles, those who will not patronize you to make you feel good for a moment, but those who will tell you the truth and help you get better for a lifetime.

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